EDITOR'S PICK FOR PATIENT EDUCATION: Heart Failure Online

Direct patients to this site to learn more about the anatomy and function of the heart and circulatory system, the causes and symptoms of heart failure, and treatment options.

Heart Failure Online is a fantastic resource, sponsored in part by the San Diego Cardiac Center and the Sharp Foundation for Cardiovascular Research and Education, and is one of the most informative, best designed patient education resources you’re going to find online.

The clean, direct, and easy-to-navigate layout and design of the site makes it easy for you and your patients to find information about the anatomy and function of the heart and circulatory system, the causes and symptoms of heart failure, and treatment options.

Click on “The Heart” in the navigation bar to access information on the workings of the cardiovascular system, with separate sections that explain the role of the vascular system, provide an “introduction to the lungs,” and explain what the neuroendocrine system is and how it “controls” the heart. Information is accompanied by informative graphics and diagrams.

Under the “Heart Failure” heading, patients will find a straightforward definition of heart failure and explanations of the effects on the body of fluid congestion and reduced blood flow, and a brief outline of the “symptoms and physical changes of heart failure” that can have “several different classifications based on their location and mechanism.” Throughout, links to supporting information are clearly displayed, making it easy for patients to learn more about the signs and symptoms of heart failure, the effects of heart failure on pulmonary function, and tests that are used to diagnose heart failure.

The “Prevention” section explains the importance of a healthy diet, proper exercise, and other lifestyle choices in promoting and maintaining good cardiovascular health. Patients can access dietary guidelines to learn about sodium intake and cholesterol, link to the “Eating Plan for Healthy Americans” created by the American Heart Association, and download a daily weight chart. This section also reminds patients that “Medications or surgical procedures may be the best way to reduce your symptoms of heart failure and improve your long-term outcome,” while also noting that “medical treatments should always be complemented with a healthy lifestyle.”

The highlights of the “Treatment” section are the descriptions of the various types of cardiac medications — the authors of the site have organized the meds into inpatient and outpatient varieties (further divided by medication type: diuretics, ACE inhibitors, vasodilators, etc for outpatient meds) and provided descriptions of the drugs’ purpose and potential side effects, along with the names and pictures of common varieties.